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How do I live out my baptismal calling?

Today marks the official end of the Christmas Season. Over the past few weeks we have seen Jesus grow from an infant to a pre-teen to an adult embarking on his ministry. This feast of the Baptism of the Lord reminds us that the ministry of Jesus began with his being filled with the Holy Spirit. So too, our ministry as Christians begins with our baptism whether as an infant or as an adult. The major difference between our baptism and that of Jesus is that almost immediately after his baptism Jesus began to proclaim the Gospel. For most of us, we ease into our mission as Christians. We take time getting our feet wet. And for some of us, our ministry as Christians never takes off.

Even prior to his baptism, Jesus was proclaiming the kingdom of God. He was drawing people to himself as an infant, teaching them as a pre-teen, and being identified as the Christ by John the Baptizer. Today’s feast is a challenge to us that we must do what Jesus did. We need to bear witness to who God is by living as Christ did. The first reading from Isaiah reminds us that we have been chosen by God and have been given a ministry. Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to draw people to God and invite them to conversion of mind and heart.

After today’s celebration, we enter the time of Winter Ordinary Time. This year it is very short as Lent begins in mid-February. The question upon which we are called to reflect is, “How do I live out my baptismal calling?” Do I take Isaiah’s words to heart? Do I proclaim God’s kingdom? Do I point out the Christ is the midst of the assembly?

Our baptism means that we must act. We cannot sit on the sidelines and complain about what should be; rather, we need to work for the change that we know needs to happen. Jesus’ own ministry was very short; yet look at how much he accomplished. What will our accomplishments be with the time we’ve been given?

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As we begin the New Year and celebrate the great feast of Epiphany, it is an opportunity to look back on 2015 and ponder how God was working in our lives. Moreover, we are invited to trust that God will be with us in the coming year. We continue to contemplate the wonderful mercy of God, that in his love, he gave us a savior who transforms us into the people we were destined to be.

For your reflection, I invite you to meditate on this prayer which Pope Francis quoted during his Christmas greetings to the Curial officials gathered in Rome:

“And so may mercy guide our steps, inspire our reforms and enlighten our decisions. May it be the basis of all our efforts. May it teach us when to move forward and when to step back. May it also enable us to understand the littleness of all that we do in God’s greater plan of salvation and his majestic and mysterious working.

“To help us better grasp this, let us savour the magnificent prayer, commonly attributed to Blessed Oscar Arnulfo Romero, but pronounced for the first time by Cardinal John Dearden:

“Every now and then it helps us to take a step back and to see things from a distance.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is also beyond our visions.
In our lives, we manage to achieve only a small part of the marvellous plan that is God’s work.
Nothing that we do is complete, which is to say that the Kingdom is greater than ourselves.
No statement says everything that can be said.
No prayer completely expresses the faith.
No Creed brings perfection.
No pastoral visit solves every problem.
No programme fully accomplishes the mission of the Church.
No goal or purpose ever reaches completion.
This is what it is about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that others will watch over them.
We lay the foundations of something that will develop.
We add the yeast which will multiply our possibilities.
We cannot do everything, yet it is liberating to begin.
This gives us the strength to do something and to do it well.
It may remain incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way.
It is an opportunity for the grace of God to enter and to do the rest.
It may be that we will never see its completion, but that is the difference between the master and the labourer.
We are labourers, not master builders, servants, not the Messiah.
We are prophets of a future that does not belong to us.”

May the year 2016 be a time of openness to God’s loving mercy and may each of us strive to be willing instruments of God’s love as we continue to make present the Christ Child.

Posted in Msgr. Kasza


This is the last bulletin of 2015. Today also happens to be the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. This celebration invites us to be a better family of believers. We all come from a family: Some from a more traditional family; others from a blended family. Some of us are products of broken homes or abusive environments. There are even some who are a family of one. So today’s feast can sometimes be painful, especially if your family was not like a Norman Rockwell painting.

It is often said, “You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family.” In some senses that is true: we are a product of our parents and family members. We do not have a choice of where to live and with whom to live while we are growing up. However, as we age, we can chose people whom we consider to be our “family.”

I know of many individuals who no longer associate with their biological or adoptive family members, for whatever reason an estrangement has occurred. In these cases, they have created their own circle of friends who form their family and they celebrate significant life events with these close friends.

The point of today’s feast is not to make any one feel shame because his or her family is not “perfect” or “the norm;” rather, the readings encourage us to treat our familial groups (whether biological, adoptive or created) with mutual respect and honesty.

The first part of the second reading from Colossians is especially helpful in this regard: “Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another….and over all these put on love….and be thankful.” These words apply to every situation: families, friends, classmates, co-workers, as well as those we meet in random situations.

While it is true we cannot choose our families, we can choose how to treat one another. May today’s feast challenge us to treat everyone we meet in 2016 with love and compassion.

As we come to the end of the calendar year, I want to take this opportunity to thank you, my parish family, for blessing me this year. Thank you to our staff. Thank you to all who volunteer in various capacities throughout the year. Thank you to all who participate through their attendance at Mass and other functions. Thank you to all who are homebound, yet continue to support St. James through their prayers. May God continue to bless you in 2016.

Posted in Msgr. Kasza

Merry Christmas

As we enter into the final week of the Advent season, we may be tempted to anticipate Christmas. Yet the Church invites us through this week’s readings to continue the process of preparation. The first reading reminds us that the most insignificant place can become great because of God’s intervention. Bethlehem was small, yet from it came the Son of God. So too, out of our “smallness” God can use us as his instruments to bring about great things.

In our preparation we should continue to make real changes in our lives rather than create sacrifices and offerings as a way of atoning for sin. If we really want to prepare for Christ’s birth, change the way that we live our lives. Eliminate sinful behaviors and attitudes as the way in which we welcome the Lord into our midst.

The Gospel recounts the visitation of Elizabeth by Mary. How do we respond when we encounter Christ in other people? Do we give praise to God? Do we even acknowledge that Christ has visited us? This fourth week of Advent is a time to prepare for the coming of Christ by actively seeking out his presence in the world around us, especially in the persons we meet each and every day.

As you continue your final preparations for the great feast of Christmas, take some time for yourselves. Spend time with the Lord. Relax and be thankful for the many blessing you have received over the year. And above all, ask God to continue to use you as his instrument of bringing Christ and peace into our world.

On behalf of all of the staff here at St. James, I want to wish each of you a Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy, and holy New Year. May God who has begun the good work in you, bring it to fulfillment in 2016.

Posted in Msgr. Kasza


We are half way through Advent. As we celebrate Gaudete Sunday, we are invited to rejoice and reflect upon what God has done and is doing in our lives. Traditionally, Advent (like Lent) was a penitential season, although not as severe in its practices. As a way of preparing for the Lord, we are invited to alter our behaviors and curb our sinful tendencies through fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.

In the spirit of the season, we share our blessings through the Adopt-A-Family and the Giving Tree projects. We are encouraged to attend Mass more frequently, perhaps going to one of the daily Masses in addition to one on Sunday. There are several opportunities for confession, including a communal penance service on Thursday, December 17th at 7 PM. Moreover, we should make fasting and abstinence a part of our weekly routine as well.

However, on this day, the Church pauses from that penitential tone and rejoices because the Lord is near to us. The readings speak of rejoicing in the Lord always. The Gospel reading from Luke calls to mind the ministry of John the Baptizer. The challenge which he gave to the people of his day is also given to us. In all that we do, we should keep the Lord first and foremost in our minds and hearts and make it a priority to be Christ for others.

On December 12th we celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Her image, imprinted on the tilma of Juan Diego, shows Mary as a pregnant woman. She was filled with the presence of the Lord (both literally and figuratively) and her mission was to help us to also be filled with the presence of God. This is a beautiful image for us on this Third Sunday of Advent. We are invited to rejoice because God is near to us and we are called to make him present by our very lives.

As you continue to prepare for the season, take some time to rejoice in the Lord and give thanks for all of the blessings you have received over the past year. Make Christ a priority and like Mary become the vessel of bringing Christ to others.

Posted in Msgr. Kasza

May God who has begun the good work in you, bring it to completion.

Today is the Second Sunday of Advent, but we also remember the feast of St. Nicholas on December 6th. St. Nick was the inspiration for Santa Claus who is known by many different names around the world. These individuals give out of love. But ultimately it is God who is the model for all those who give without counting the cost. Despite our unworthiness, God still gave us the supreme gift of his Son Jesus Christ. In turn, Jesus gave us his life so that we might have life eternal. Moreover, Jesus continues to give us nourishment through the Eucharist. To assist us in our daily activities, the Holy Spirit is given to us as our Advocate and guide.

In the second reading, we hear echoes of an oft-quoted saying: “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” At every ordination ceremony, the bishop says, “May God who has begun the good work in you, bring it to completion.” In other words, the work we do is not ours, but God’s. We are mere instruments of God’s direction. However, this does not mean that we are pawns or that God will manipulate us.

Since we have been endowed with free will and intellect, we can cooperate with God or reject God. When we put ourselves at the disposal of the Lord, great things can happen. When we ignore God’s commands or try to do things on our own in opposition to God’s will, we sometimes run into trouble. But even so, God still loves us and calls us to conversion. Unlike Santa who makes a list and checks it twice, God knows who’s been naughty or nice, but STILL LOVES THEM ANYWAY. As the psalmist says, “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.”

In these beginning days of the Advent season, we are invited to prepare a place for the Lord to dwell in our hearts and lives. As God has given to us, so too are we called to give to one another.

Posted in Msgr. Kasza

be vigilant at all times and pray

Today is the First Sunday of Advent. We begin a new cycle of readings in which the Gospel reading comes primarily from Luke’s Gospel. Not much is known about Luke; however, likely the same person wrote the Gospel bearing his name as well as the Acts of the Apostles. In some senses then, the Acts may be considered “part 2” of the Gospel.

Once again we hear the call to be attentive to the signs of the times. More importantly however, we are invited to “be vigilant at all times and pray.” Too often we ignore what is going on around us and sometimes fail to pray for God’s strength to withstand difficulties. Yet, Paul reminds us to always conduct ourselves in a way that is pleasing to God.

As we make our way in life, waiting becomes more difficult. We get tired of being vigilant and in the process may become lazy or indifferent to following the Lord. The whole season of Advent is about waiting with hopefulness. However, sometimes this becomes increasingly difficult and sometimes painful. In our society of instantaneous communication, we don’t like to wait. We want an immediate response. We like things to be smooth and seamless.

However, God does not work on our schedule. God does things in his own time and way. We may feel that something should be done in this fashion, in this timeframe. But God often has other ideas. In this season of Advent, we are encouraged to put on the mind of God—to think like God would think—and learn to love one another more deeply.

As we anticipate the coming holy days, let each of us determine how we are going to love God and our neighbor better. Let us make our conduct be worthy as followers of Christ. May each one of us be open with joyful anticipation to meet the Lord whenever he comes.

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Christ the King

Today is the last Sunday of the Church year. It is dedicated to Christ, King of the Universe. However, the Gospel reading we hear is the dialogue between Pilate and Jesus just prior to the crucifixion. Jesus is about to be executed— hardly a “kingly” place to be. Yet, in the face of death, Jesus reveals what true leadership is all about.

A leader preaches truth. A leader points to the truth. A leader lives the truth. In this day and age, the truth is often obfuscated: A white woman passes as black, a man who has never served in the military dresses up in uniform so he can be hailed as a hero, and a man claims to be a woman and is proclaimed “Woman of the Year” by a fashion magazine. A real leader cuts through the malarkey and says what is true, what is real, what is holy.

The feast of Christ our King is a reminder for us to always preach truth and justice, even when (and I would add especially when) the world is doing otherwise. One doesn’t need to be nasty or vindictive; rather, one needs to speak boldly and decisively. Too often however, we are worried about hurting someone’s feelings if we point out the error of their argument or their ways. The prophets throughout history from Esther to Dorothy Day to Martin Luther King to Francis were never afraid to speak the truth. It was always risky: In some cases, they were ostracized, in other cases their preaching lead to their death. Yet, God was always with them.

Today’s readings challenge us to put Christ first in our lives and to always live the truth. Pray that during this coming Church year you may be up for the challenge and go boldly where others have gone before. May each of us follow in the footsteps of Christ our King and become living witnesses of truth, justice, and love.

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make the best of today

“Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to stand before the Son of Man.” These words come from the Gospel acclamation antiphon. The readings for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time are a reminder that we are called to be vigilant and observant of the signs of the times. We may be cognizant of the weather or the changing of the seasons, but how aware are we of the presence of God in our lives?

These last days of the Church year are an invitation to draw closer to the Lord. It always amazes me how some people can be aware of every movement of a popular athlete or movie star or singing sensation, yet they have no idea about to function in daily life. They can remember when so-and-so had his first hit album debut, but cannot remember their sibling’s favorite color or birthday. More importantly many of these same people have no clue about their faith life. They may become thrilled when a popular actor visits a sick child in the hospital, but they will not even phone their aging grandparent who lives alone.

These latter days challenge us to examine how we live our lives as participating Christians. That is, do we truly live the Gospel today and let God be concerned with tomorrow? There are some preachers who continually preach about the end times claiming that “the end is near.” They are like Henny Penny worrying about the sky falling, yet fail to see the fallen and broken people around them. Jesus states very clearly that no one – NO ONE – knows when the end times will occur. In the meantime we need to make the best of today.

As you prepare for Thanksgiving and the upcoming Advent Season ask yourself, “What am I doing now to prepare for the Lord’s arrival? Am I living each day as if it were to be my last?”

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Be Generous.

How generous are we? Do we share our blessings with the less fortunate? Do we support organizations that are doing the work of the Lord? Today’s readings challenge us to be generous, not because we expect to receive something in return, but because it is the right thing to do. There is an old saying, “What goes around comes around.” When we do good, it comes back to us. When we do evil, that also comes back to us. Some people call this karma; others call it divine justice. In any case, when we give from our heart, we receive many blessings in return.

The widow of Zarephath shared her meager resources with the prophet Elijah even though she felt that she barely had enough. Yet God provided for her. He allowed her to continue being generous. The widow who contributed to the treasury knew that she was supporting the work of the temple. Yes others gave larger sums of money, yet she saw the importance of giving. There is another saying, “Not equal gifts, but equal sacrifice.” The rich people gave more because they had more. The widow gave what she could even though it was a sacrifice for her.

I often hear people tell me that the “Church always asks for money.” My response is, “Who is the Church?” According to Vatican II, we are the Church; we are the people of God. The reason we have beautiful facilities is because people contribute to maintain them. When you join a gym or a golf club, you pay an annual fee whether you use the facility one time, a few times or every day of the week. Hopefully however, you use it enough to make paying the fee worthwhile. There are some who join a club to say that they are a member, but never use the facility. However, their contribution helps to maintain the facility so when they (or others) want to use the facility, it is available and in good repair.

Without money we could not heat or cool the building, cut the grass, shovel the snow or repair the building. Without money we could not do our charitable outreach to St. Al’s, COTS, and needy families in our community. Without money we could not provide a safe environment for our children to play CYO sports, to learn about God, or to hang out after school. Without money we could not maintain a beautiful facility in which to worship God, perform weddings and funerals, or host concerts, talks, and workshops that enrich our minds and souls.

As we continue our journey toward the end of the Church year and calendar year, we need to ask ourselves, “How generous have we been with our time, our talent, and our treasure?” Are we like the widow of Zarephath or the widow of the Gospel who shared their meager resources so that others could also benefit?

Posted in Msgr. Kasza